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The season of Epiphany is in full swing at Gwenafwy Abbey when ten new nuns from a convent in Los Angeles join the community of Anglican sisters in Wales. They bring energy, youthful enthusiasm, and more electronic equipment than Sister Agatha could have imagined. The arrival of the new nuns brings something else to the Abbey—a bit of unexpected notoriety. Claire Pennoyer, an ambitious young reporter for The Church Times, interviews the new sisters for a feature story. Murder is the last thing on anyone’s mind when Claire is found dead on the beach, her mobile phone in the sand. A tragic death, says Constable Barnes. A selfie gone bad. Meanwhile, Sister Agatha is unconvinced and puts on her detective’s hat. Clues abound including the mysterious discovery of a missing key baked into the king’s cake for the feast of Epiphany. Sister Agatha’s tangled list of suspects includes even the abbey’s residents – and the beloved archbishop of Wales. Worst of all are her worries about the abbey’s beloved Shetland pony, Bartimaeus, who may be reaching the end of a noble life. Time is running out as Sister Agatha uncovers a shocking reality. Will she reveal the truth hidden in an ancient document before it is too late?
In Abide With Me, Jane Willan blends cozy Welsh village, sparkling humor, and enough action to keep pages turning.
Character Guest Post
(I am writing as the character Reverend Mother, the leader at Gwenafwy Abbey)
“It’s Lonely at the Top”
When the sisters at Gwenafwy Abbey elected me to lead them into the future and the Bishop bestowed the title of “Reverend Mother” upon me, I must admit, that that night, I had a moment of sheer panic in my private room. Oh, I got through the worship service and the laying on of hands and liturgy and the coffee hour afterwards with sheet cake and pink punch with a ring of ice floating in it. I gallantly survived the hand-shaking and the hugs and the many good wishes and I did it while looking both humble and confident as is only appropriate for the charge that God and the sisters and the Bishop had thrust upon me. But as I said, I experienced a moment of terror in my room that night.
I remember sitting there on the edge of the bed, listening to the silence of the Abbey and I found that I couldn’t catch my breath. I wondered if I was having what people called a panic attack. If I wasn’t having one, I should have.
Who did I think I was? The Reverend Mother before me had been Sister Beatrice. A fearless leader. Kind, gentle, yet a faith that could move mountains. How would I ever step into her shoes? And did I even want to stand in her shoes? I felt wretched with the loneliness of it all. Didn’t everyone say that it is lonely at the top? I suddenly wanted to give it back—call the Bishop and say, you’ve made a mistake. I’m not the one who you want!
I don’t know how long I would have sat there not moving, barely breathing, and doing my best to not cry, when I heard a knock on my door. It was Sister Agatha. She stood there in her blue nun’s habit, her short gray hair sticking up all over, and a tray in her hands. “I’ve brought you a bit of tea,” she said. The tray held tea things and a plate with a two Welsh cakes. “You’ve had a long day,” she said. “I thought you might need something.”
I don’t remember if I even thanked her. I must have. And then she said something, I’ll never forget. Sister Agatha is our resident writer, and she has a way with words. She said that I should always remember that I stood surrounded by all the love and strength and courage of every sister in the Abbey. A cloud of witnesses, really. And so I should never to feel alone.
And then she ate one of Welsh cakes.
I have reminded myself of Sister Agatha’s words every day that I have been Reverend Mother. Surrounded by a cloud of witnesses. And you know what? It’s not lonely at the top. Not at all. At least not at Gwenafwy Abbey.
About the Author
Jane Willan wants to live in a world where everyone has time to read their favorite books, drink good coffee, and walk their dog on the beach, but until that can happen she enjoys life as a pastor and writer. When she’s not working on a sermon, or hiking with her husband, Don, you can find her rereading Jane Eyre, binge-watching Downton Abbey, and trying out new ways to avoid exercise.
Website – https://www.janewillan.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/jane.willan.9
Twitter – https://twitter.com/Jane_Willan
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/authorjaneawillan/
Goodreads – https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/8507263.Jane_Willan